When you prepare your home for sale, it’s important to be able to detach from the house emotionally, so you can understand what buyers are looking for and what their potential concerns may be.
When you decide to prepare your home for sale, the first order of business is to start packing and purging immediately. To avoid feeling like your entire life and home are upside down, outline a strategy to keep you organized. Here’s a checklist of the most important things to tackle during the process:
Go through every room and collect items you want to donate, throw out, or sell: Do this before you start packing to save both money and time. Determining what you should get rid of or keep can be a painstaking task, but we’ve got some tips to guide you.
Take an inventory of all your belongings: Taking stock of your belongings will not only help you keep track of them during the move, but it’ll also be useful to have on hand for homeowners insurance purposes.
Label everything: Top real estate agent Carrie Buckett is a relocation specialist who serves Illinois and Wisconsin. She has seen too many clients leave boxes unlabeled and stick them in the basement, thinking, “Oh, we’ll go through these later.” And they end up collecting dust never to be opened again. “Label everything,” advises Buckett.
Pack a suitcase full of items you want to hold onto during the moving process: This includes everyday necessities plus valuable and sentimental items like family heirlooms and important documents.
Save time and keep your items safe and damage-free through the entire process: For tips and tricks to making sure your belongings don’t break, and other strategic packing advice, check out our guide to make moving easier.
Proper packing techniques will help you prepare your home for sale in more ways than you think. If it looks like you take good care of your possessions, buyers are likely to assume you have taken the same approach with the house.
Creating a neutral and inviting space allows potential buyers to envision themselves in your home. Start by minimizing personal items, streamlining decor, and giving every room a thorough cleaning to present your property in the best light.
When you prepare your home for sale, there needs to be enough room for buyers and agents to move around while viewing your home. Clutter can be visually unappealing and impede potential buyers from seeing themselves living in the house, so you’ll want to declutter as much as possible. For items you need to hold onto, find a few decorative boxes that can be kept out of sight yet still easily accessible. You may also consider renting a storage unit.
Depersonalizing goes a step further than decluttering, so the buyer can envision themselves and their own belongings in the home. When you prepare your home for sale, depersonalizing is important because it removes distractions that could keep the buyer from focusing on the house itself. You’ll want to make sure to remove your family photos and religious items and cover up patterned, bulky furniture that’s specific to your taste.
“A deep clean never fails to solicit buyer comments like the house feels solid, well-maintained, or meticulously cared for — even if the house is really outdated,” says Jessica Riphenburg, a top agent in Madison, Wisconsin who sells homes 65% faster than her peers.
You can hire a professional if you’d like, but that will cost you between $150 and $250, with most homeowners paying $221 on average for a one-time clean. This is one of those projects that you may want to take on yourself if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease.
When cleaning, it’s best to tackle one task at a time (like washing windows) and perform that task through the entire house before moving on to the next thing. This means pulling out furniture to get rid of dust bunnies, removing carpet stains, scrubbing your appliances inside and out, and wiping down baseboards and door handles.
Working with a top agent can be one of the most important steps to take as you prepare your home for sale. HomeLight’s data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 4.8% more than the average real estate agent.
An experienced agent can help you identify any issues when preparing your home for the market, and will often have a Rolodex of contacts for work that needs to be done by a professional. You can also utilize your agent’s network when it comes time to list your home to connect with stagers, landscapers, photographers, and beyond.
Curb appeal is extremely important because it determines a buyer’s first impression when they approach your home or see it in photographs online. To prepare your home for sale, clear your yard of debris (and any unwelcome surprises if you’re a pet owner), mow the lawn, and trim back bushes. If you choose to do some planting, apply mulch liberally and use low-maintenance flowers like perennials.
Good landscaping also increases home value. According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Spring 2023, landscaping adds $7,312 to your sale price on average, which amounts to a 112% return on investment.
If your exterior paint is faded or flaking or your house has cracks, wood rot, or other water damage, these are all signs to paint the exterior when you prepare your home for sale.
Obvious damages to your home are likely to be red flags for buyers, and the last thing you want is a buyer nitpicking problems they can use as bargaining chips to seek a lower price.
The most important repairs are the ones that pose a hazard or have a significant impact on everyday life. These range from plumbing and electrical problems to issues with your home’s foundation. Some of these can be easy and low-cost fixes, while others can be expensive but are necessary since they’re critical to the sturdiness and functionality of the home. Filling in a single foundation crack, for example, runs between $250 and $800, according to Angi.
To get ahead of appraisal-required repairs, you may want to consider getting a pre-listing home inspection to ensure that your home is up to par with needed repairs and maintenance. Expect to pay about $342 on average for a pre-listing home inspection.
When preparing your home for sale, some upgrades can increase the value of your home. According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for End of Year 2023, the biggest home selling point was an updated kitchen with newer appliances, earning 67% of the vote. A minor kitchen remodel can yield a 72% return on investment when it comes time to sell but you can expect to pay between $25,000 to $40,000.
Energy-efficient upgrades like new insulated windows can also save buyers money over the long term, costing $200 to $1,300 per window with a 68% return on investment. In fact, 32% of agents surveyed by HomeLight said that energy-efficient or green home features were a top selling point for today’s buyers.
If you’re handy and have the skills to fix certain issues such as plumbing or landscaping, or if you want to do DIY projects like painting the walls in some key rooms, you can increase the value of your home in a cost-efficient way.
When you prepare your home for sale, staging can highlight its features without drowning them out — creating an attractive vision to help buyers see your house as their future home. While it might seem simple, staging is a skill, so you may want to hire a professional to ensure it’s done effectively.
In many cases, expert staging can allow sellers to forgo expensive updates and instead bring out the best in their home, as is. In a recent HomeLight Top Agent Insights report, the agents surveyed said that a professionally staged home can sell for up to 13% more than an unstaged home. At an average cost of $1,781, that makes professional staging a worthwhile investment.
With a top-producing real estate agent at your side and a solid game plan, you can successfully sell your home and make a seamless transition to the next chapter in your life. When you prepare your home for sale, just remember to do your research, buy the right supplies, take your time, and if you need an extra hand, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals.